IRS Changing Operations Due to COVID-19

April 15, 2020 | Article

By Ben Peeler and Elyse Katz

The IRS, like many, has had their operations impacted by COVID-19. Recently, the IRS released the following information in relation to their operations:

  • Live assistance on telephones, processing paper tax returns and responding to correspondence are extremely limited or suspended until further notice.
  • All Taxpayer Assistance Centers remain temporarily closed.
  • Many volunteer tax preparation sites remain temporarily closed until further notice.

What Does This mean for Me?
The best way to continue working with the IRS currently is through irs.gov and filing and submitting information electronically including fax. You won’t be able to call the main IRS hotlines, but if you have a current examination or collection process in which you are working directly with IRS personnel you will still be able to speak with them.

A majority of the IRS workforce is now on telework status but are still working mission-critical cases. This includes cases where a statute of limitation is pending. In some of these situations, the IRS will work with the taxpayer or their representative to obtain an extension of the statute.

“The Office of Chief Counsel continues to work to resolve cases in litigation, including those on calendars in various cities through July 3, 2020, that were recently cancelled by the U.S. Tax Court. Notice 2020-23 (PDF), issued on April 9, 2020, postponed the due dates of petitions in the U.S. Tax Court to July 15, 2020. Counsel continues to work on cases in litigation generally and to support and advise the IRS operating divisions on their enforcement and examination activities.”

How Does This Impact IRS Examinations?
For examinations, the IRS cannot enforce Information Document Requests or Summons and are instructed not to start new examinations where permitted. However, revenue agents will continue to move forward with current examinations and work with taxpayers under these unique situations.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is still taking new cases and will answer and return phone calls to taxpayers in need. Collection has issued new guidance under the People’s First Initiative, which provides relief of collections during this time.

In the event that you finalize an exam, issue, or a claim for refund, the case will be closed from the agent’s group but it will not be sent to Centralized Case Processing for official posting due to operations being closed. We estimate CCP to start posting and processing these cases sometime in July.

We recently broke down the changes to the People’s First Initiative in the wake of COVID-19.

Will This Impact Economic Impact Payments?
This change in operations will not affect the IRS’ ability to deliver economic impact payments. Taxpayers should be seeing these payments within the coming weeks.

Tax rebate checks are just one of several provisions in the CARES Act.

What, If Anything, Do You Need Do Given This Change in IRS Operations?
Most call lines are closed or non-responsive. Many of the agents, revenue officers and appeals officers have slowed their level of work or are limited because they cannot obtain the file. We have already seen the following changes take place:

  • We have had to mail in copies of POAs to the CAF unit by mail instead of fax.
  • We have resorted to paper filing penalty abatements where in the past we could call in to obtain many first-time penalty abatements or rejections over the phone.
  • We have needed to file even more Taxpayer Advocate requests to push the IRS to process requests with significant deadlines or issues causing hardships to taxpayers.

However, it is an opportune time to pursue penalty abatements and proceed with resolving IRS issues, including exams and collections. We have found the IRS is being more lenient with abatements and exams during these trying times as they understand the financial burden of these various issues. Additionally, since the IRS is not pursuing collection action, we can move forward with requesting abatements without having to get the IRS to place a collection hold on the account. With the COVID-19 situation being temporary, the IRS will return to full steam ahead. As a result, now’s the time to be proactive.

Have questions about your unique situation in light of COVID-19?

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